Economy / Food

Mayor plans to boost food markets

File photo

Inside the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market.

De Blasio says $150 million are headed Hunts Point’s way

The Hunts Point produce, meat and fish wholesale markets learned on March 5 that the mayor plans to invest in upgrades to the facilities’ badly deteriorating infrastructure.

At a breakfast at the Association for a Better New York on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan to invest $150 million over the next 12 years to “modernize the buildings and infrastructure” at the markets, and to “open space for new businesses,” while ensuring the markets remain “resilient and sustainable.” 

The mayor presented the plan while trumpeting other initiatives to create 200,000 apartments of affordable housing and new tech jobs. Investment in the food markets, he said, would help fortify “a vital aspect of our infrastructure—-our food supply,” adding that the markets employ workers in “8,000 good-paying jobs,” and that the administration wants to “see more jobs grow in that space.”

A spokesman for Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market businesses said the owners were taken by surprise, and although they are unsure how the money will be parsed, they are hopeful it will be used to improve storage, security and transportation conditions for the nation’s largest wholesale supplier of fruits and vegetables.

“We look forward to hearing more about [the] announcement by the mayor, specifically how these funds impact our market’s infrastructure needs,” said Robert Leonard.

Matthew D’Arrigo, owner of D’Arrigo Bros. NY Co. Inc. and a former president of the cooperative that represents the produce market, said he, like the other business owners, had no idea prior to the announcement that there were plans afoot to invest in the markets, and he was anxious to hear what the mayor had in mind.

“I’m not sure where he’s coming from,” said D’Arrigo.

In an email to the Express, a spokesman for the mayor, Wiley Norvell, wrote that the new policy is needed because “it is time to start to co-invest with the businesses at the Markets in a modernization of the facilities” that would include “parking lot repairs at the Fish Market,” along with “urgent short-term repairs at the Meat Market, and rail infrastructure” for the produce market.

Business owners at all three markets have long argued that money is urgently needed to update infrastructure.  They want a more efficient refrigeration system and increased storage and rail capacity. More recently, a team of federally-funded planners and engineers has argued that money is needed to reinforce an outdated and vulnerable power grid, construct levees to prevent catastrophic flooding and create waterfront businesses to jumpstart the local economy.

Greens in the produce market are stored in refrigerated tractor trailers that the businesses must shuttle around during weekends on the compound’s sprawling lot to stay clear of trains bringing goods along the market’s lone rail line.

At a public forum at The Point CDC in February, the Hunts Point Lifelines planning team applauded joint pledges of $45 million by the City and federal governments to begin fortifying the peninsula against flooding, but said over $800 million would be needed to enact a comprehensive protection plan.

Paul Lipson, a consultant who works to help link local residents, the markets and the Hunts Point Lifelines planners, said the mayor’s announcement is a start.

“This is a down payment on making this a 21st century food distribution center,” said Lipson, who co-founded The Point CDC community center on Manida Street in the 1990s. “It sets the table.”

In his State of the Borough address in February, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. presaged the mayor’s call for upgrades, calling for a new freezer facility for the fish and meat markets.

“This will allow our markets to expand, lower costs for consumers, reduce truck traffic and pollution, create hundreds of new jobs and keep more revenue in The Bronx,” said Diaz.

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